Cold Weather Travel Clothing – A Man’s Packing List

Most of us like to bundle up when it gets cold.   Trouble is that “bundling” kind of makes you look like a sleeping bag with legs.

That works all right walking around your hometown in winter, but it’s not very attractive in business settings, and it’s particularly challenging if you’re traveling somewhere cold. Big, puffy down clothing doesn’t pack well — it’s bulky and it wears down quickly when you’re constantly compressing and expanding the filling.

Today we take a look at options for the well-dressed man in the frozen north (or frozen south if you’re heading toward Antarctica and the tip of South America).

Our goals today are stylish, portable, and warm — a tough trifecta.

Your destination and your reason for traveling affects your packing list. With that in mind, we’re covering the broad basics, with the assumption that you’ll add or subtract clothes as needed.

Cold weather temperatureA ski retreat with the office will be heavier on the outerwear than a hotel-based conference. Use your judgment! Here’s what we’d consider essential for a week in cold weather, and our advice on how to pack it:

The First Layer: Base-Layers

The layers closest to your skin are the most important at keeping you warm. You will want to make sure you pack base-layers specific for cold-weather climates. Athletic base-layers for cold weather that are made from spandex material are efficient at trapping your body heat while wicking away any perspiration.

Base Layer These “new technology” base-layers are much better than grandpa’s union suit. Keeping your legs warm are important; make sure you have both a shirt and leggings.

The Second Layer: Long-sleeved shirts

A gentleman will want to cover as much skin as possible. But now he has options and his choice depends on the reason why he is in a cold climate. If a gentleman is going to be highly active, then he will want to pack long-sleeved shirts that can be worn while on the slopes, for example. However, if he will go out to dinner, then he will want to have one dress shirt that fits the man’s personal style.

The Third Layer:  Sweaters

Sweaters keep you warm without sacrificing style. A well-fitted wool sweater can get you through anything from a casual drink to a dinner at a pretty nice restaurant.

Man wearing sweaterWool is hands down the champion of cold-weather protection, as well as water-resistant, comfortable, durable, even antimicrobial (which helps slow the growth of the nasty bacteria that feeds on sweat and contributes to body odor). V-neck sweaters pair well with a collared shirt underneath. Aran sweaters are classic and look good by themselves.

The Fourth Layer: Overcoats and Jackets

The final layer is an overcoat (if you are wearing dress clothes) or a jacket (if you are going casual). A wool overcoat will be the  first to guard against the elements.  The weight of your overcoat or jacket will depend on the severity of the temperature.

If you are going to experience harsh cold (10 degrees Fahrenheit or less), then you will want to make sure you have a coat that is sufficiently insulated. One suggestion is to make sure you keep the style of your coat with its proper environment: wearing trousers, a v-neck sweater, collar shirt and a tie with an athletic ski jacket does not look sharp.

Layers for the Legs: Pants and Trousers

Wool is your friend and it helps to keep your legs warm too.  Wear a base-layer of performance fiber and a pair of wool trousers for maximum warmth.  It’s hard to add more than those two layers on the legs — three or four layers is normal for the upper body, but it gets awfully constricting to wear multiple pairs of pants.

Gray flannels for menQuality is needed more than quantity. Wool flannel trousers are a great way to look sharp and still maintain warmth.  A long overcoat offers protection to the legs as well as the torso, making it preferable to a waist-length jacket.

Other Necessities: Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Proper Footwear

About 10% – 20% of your body heat is lost through the head. Trap this heat with a warm hat. However, when the temperature is extremely cold and you want to keep warm, then consider wearing a Russian-style Ushanka. The Russians know how to keep warm during winter.

Ushanka hats made from synthetic furs, sheep skin, rabbit fur, mink, fox and other furs. A knit wool cap (which goes by hundreds of different names, depending on where you are) looks best when it’s closely-fitted and made of thick wool.  Try to avoid anything bright or vividly-patterned if you’re wearing dress clothing.

Make sure you have a pair of insulated leather gloves. Scarves will protect any exposed parts of your neck. They are a great addition to an outfit and can add a dash of color or texture or pattern to your wardrobe. Wool scarves are the best and the warmest.

Cod weather accessoriesCold toes are just as bad as cold hands. Keeping your feet warm will greatly influence the enjoyment of your week stay in cold weather. A pair of oxfords or balmorals will not keep your feet warm if you find yourself exposed to the cold. Try to find a deal on a quality pair of insulated leather boots.

The dressier they are, the easier you can wear them with trousers if you go to a restaurant. Alternatively, a pair of fitted galoshes or similar insulated overshoes can slip over your dress shoes for travel and come off once you get inside.  This works better at hotels than restaurants, which may not have a convenient place for the overshoes.

A Suggested Packing List for An Active Trip

Use the below list if you are going to spend more time doing winter sports than inside

Clothing Item Suggest Amount
Underwear 7 pairs
Wool socks 2 pairs
Dress socks 1 pair
Boots 1 pair
Wool sweater 1
Dress shirts 2
Trousers (wool flannel) 1 pair
Performance base-layer 1 complete pair
Hat 1
Scarf 1
Gloves 2 pairs
Overcoat 1
Necktie 1
Pajamas / Sleepwear 1 pair
Outdoor athletic clothing (ski jacket and ski pants) 1 complete set
Dopp kit 1


How to Pack the Active List

The list may look long and you may think that you will not be packing light, especially for only a week. But don’t forget that you will be wearing: the overcoat, a pair of gloves, a scarf, a hat, base-layering, the pair of trousers, a pair of underwear, the sweater, and a dress shirt (if you decided to wear a v-neck sweater). So you will just have to pack a few remaining items which could easily fit into a small suitcase, if you know how to pack it properly.

1) Start by tightly rolling your underwear and push them into the corners of your suitcase.

2) Put your base-layers next. Tightly roll them into logs and pack them along the edges of your suitcase.

3) Fill in any spaces along the edges with the socks. (Rolled or flat, whichever will best fill the spaces)

4a) Put your outdoor / ski clothing into a vacuum bag and suck (or roll) the air out of the bag. Put this package in the center of the case.

4b) If you do not have a vacuum bag, then tightly roll your outdoor clothing into logs and lay them length-wise into the center of your suitcase.

5) Lightly roll your dress shirt (first fold the sleeves towards the center, then start with the collar and gently roll down to the bottom of the shirt). Put the dress shirt log nearest the top of the suitcase. Do not put it near the bottom because when the suit case is standing, any loose weight will push against your shirt and cause it to wrinkle.

6) Put your pajamas in next and your dopp kit. (If you arrive at your destination at night, then when you open your suitcase you will not need to dig around for your PJs and kit.)

7) Close your suitcase and put on the remaining clothes from the packing list.

A Suggested Packing List for a Less-than-active Trip

Use the below list if you will go to a location where the temperature is cold, but you will be indoors more than outside.

Clothing Item Suggest Amount
Underwear 7 pairs
Wool socks 1 pair
Dress socks 2 pairs
Dress shoes 1 pair
Wool sweater 2
Dress shirts 2
Trousers (non-flannel) 1 pair
Trousers (wool flannel) 1 pair
Performance base-layer 1 complete pair
Hat 1
Scarf 1
Gloves 2 pairs
Overcoat 1
Necktie 2
Pajamas / Sleepwear 1 pair
Clothing and Shoe kit (shoe polish, brush, etc) 1
Dopp kit 1


How to Pack the Less-than-active List

The principles are the same as the Active List, with the assumption that you do not have any skiing jackets or snow pants to pack. Use the room otherwise reserved for the outdoor clothing for your extra pair of trousers.

Make sure you lightly roll your dress shirts and trousers. You can fold your sweater. Remember to always start on the edges and pack to the center.

Conclusion to Packing for Cold Weather

LuggageThrough my traveling experiences, I am often finding myself over-packing. I let my mind envision the worst-case scenarios and then I try to compensate by adding more clothing.

Try not to fall victim to a worrying mind.Take a deep breath before you start laying out what you want to pack. Relax.

If you are going for a week-long vacation to the mountains, your enjoyment starts with a proper frame-of-mind. A memorable vacation starts before you depart. Do not freak out about your packing list.

Do your best and make sure you still adhere to the general guidelines of looking sharp which can be found here on Real Men Real Style.

Tell yourself that you are only going for a week and we live in a world of modern conveniences. Now go and pack like a real man with real style.

Questions? Comments? Do you have any tips for packing for cold weather? Your participation is always greatly appreciated.